I’m used to sitting in theatres where slow creeping zombies are usually only funny, not scary. Their luridness has been lost to a long forgotten time where films like White Zombie and Night of the Living Dead spoke to widespread public fears of the dead walking the Earth, only now to have been replaced by trepidation of cannibalistic junkies hopped up on bath salts, or more modern menaces like Bill O’Reilly. As if unearthed alongside the ferocious cold that’s hit Toronto as of late, director/producer Matthias Hoene’s debut feature film Cockneys vs Zombies wafts a breath of brisk, fresh air into the well-trodden zombie-film genre. It’s by adeptly combining the now retro, sluggish undead dread of films like Dawn of the Dead with the tongue twisting comedic flair of movies like My Fair Lady that Hoene has successfully created a foul mouthed cockney experiment of sorts that he simply describes as a new breed of “zombie-venture.” Hitting theatres Saturday as part of the Cineplex Great Digital Film Festival and following its Canadian debut at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, Cockneys vs Zombies is a delightful treat for young, old and even the possibly undead zombie-genre lovers who will no doubt left drooling from this splatter-filled film of blood, guts and brains.
Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy Macguire (Harry Tradaway) are two-bit hustlers from London’s East End who are planning a bank heist. They enlist the help of experienced – and psychopathic – gangster Mental Mickey (Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas) to make sure the robbery goes off without a hitch. Aided by their bad ass cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan) and dimwitted buddy Davey (Jack Doolan), the youths are determined to use the money to help their feisty granddad Ray (Alan Ford) and his friends keep their East End retirement home open. Just when the robbery seems to have gone awry, an ancient plague unleashed from an uncovered tomb on an East End construction site discharges a zombie infection. The teens find themselves torn between dealing with their hostage situation, the zombie outbreak and saving granddad Ray and the seniors.
Having previously won Cannes’ Golden Lion Award for his commercial “Doggy Style” about a lothario dog, Hoene proves he’s a talented feature filmmaker here. The director rotates and plays the teens’ funny survival off of the seniors and his quick cutting and hilarious flashbacks are what keep this zombie flick bumping for all 88 minutes. Terry, Andy, Davey and Kate prove an impeccably well-oiled machine of laughs that play off each other’s pizzazz so well. But C vs Z hits gold twice by playing off the equally goofy antics of the seniors, many of whom are seasoned British actors like Honor Blackman. Amid a mass blood, guts and bullets, C vs. Z’s greatest quality is the enjoyably, loud-mouthed cockney attitude that drips from every deliberate and well planned pore of this inventive zombie apocalypse movie. Best described in Hoene’s own words, C vs. Z’s screams “It’s fucking Zombies! So fuck off!”